Meredith H. Lair

Meredith H. Lair

Meredith H. Lair

Associate Professor

U.S. History: The Vietnam War, war and American society, veterans, collective memory, consumerism, militarism, conflict tourism, American social history

Prof. Lair's work examines warfare and its relationship to American society and culture, with particular emphasis on how knowledge and memories of the past are constructed and disseminated over time. She is the author of Armed with Abundance: Consumerism and Soldiering in the Vietnam War, which examines the non-combat experiences of American soldiers in Vietnam. She finds that the US military relied heavily on consumerism and material abundance to maintain soldier morale, a phenomenon that continues to the present day.

Her current projects examine Vietnam War soldier photography and sexual assault in the Vietnam War. Prof. Lair also developed content and is sole author of the exhibit script for the New Jersey Vietnam Veterans Memorial Foundation’s 5,000 square foot Vietnam Era Museum, the first permanent museum about the Vietnam War in the United States.

Prof. Lair was an Organization of American Historians Distinguished Lecturer, 2016-19.

Prof. Lair's teaching interests include war and American society, post-1945 US social and cultural history, the Vietnam War, and historical methods. 

Current Research

"Hidden in Plain Sight: Sexual Violence in American Soldiers' Vietnam Memoirs." (article)

Inspired by the #metoo Movement, which caused millions of people to reexamine their personal experiences, I am attempting to read through American soldiers' memoirs of Vietnam War military service to understand their interactions with Vietnamese women, who left almost no published trace of sexual encounters that, by contemporary standards, would constitute harassment, assault, or even rape. 

The [In]Visible Soldier: Vietnam Veteran Activism and the Militarization of America. (monograph)

Shot in Vietnam: American Soldiers Document Their Vietnam Wars. (monograph)

Selected Publications

“Too Much and Not Enough: American Abundance in the Vietnam War, ” The Cambridge History of the Vietnam War, edited by Pierre Asselin, Edward Miller, Hang Nguyen, and Andrew Preston. Cambridge University Press, 2022.

“Survivors of Natural Disaster: American Identity in Vietnam War Films” in Martial Culture, Silver Screen: War Movies and the Construction of American Identity, LSU Press, 2020

"The Education Center at The Wall and the Re-writing of History," Public Historian, Winter 2012.

Armed with Abundance: Consumerism and Soldiering in the Vietnam WarUniversity of North Carolina Press, 2011.

 

Grants and Fellowships

Minerva Research Fellow, United States Naval Academy, 2013-14

Courses Taught

Undergraduate

  • HIST 120: Why We Fight
  • HIST 300: Introduction to Historical Method
  • HIST 370: War and American Society
  • HIST 377/387: The Vietnam War
  • HIST 389: 9/11
  • HIST 389: The History of the Election of 2020
  • HIST 389: Legacies of the Vietnam War
  • HIST 389: Veterans in American History
  • HIST 499: Senior Seminar in History

Graduate

  • HIST 677: The Vietnam War
  • HIST 679: War and Remembrance
  • HIST 797: Research Seminar in History
  • HIST 798: Directed Research & Writing in History
  • HIST 803: Major field readings
  • HIST 804: Minor field

 

Education

I am a product of service, unions, grass, corn, and public education.

  • PhD, History, Penn State University, 2004
  • BA, summa cum laude, History and Theater, Ohio University, 1994

Recent Presentations

Panelist, “Soldiers on Screen: Da 5 Bloods” (film webinar), Missing in Action Recovery & Identification Project, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 2021

Panelist, “Mission Accomplished? The Rise and Fall of the Education Center at The Wall,” Organization of American Historians, 2020 (canceled due to pandemic)

“Uncanny Vietnam,” New Perspectives on the History of the Vietnam War Symposium, Department of History, Kent State University, 2020

“Shopping in Vietnam,” Manpower & Morale after Tet, Center for Military, War, and Society Studies, University of Kansas, 2019

Panelist, “Sex/Wars: Gender on the Front Lines,” Berkshire Conference on the History or Women, Genders, and Sexualities, 2017

In the Media

The Most Important Legacy of the Vietnam War,” War Room, blog of the US Army War College, October 2019

Beer, Napalm, and Hookers: The Vietnam War & Hedonism with Meredith Lair,” Historic.ly (Podcast), 27 April 2020.

The Men Killed on a Single, Bloody Day in Vietnam, and the Haunting Wall that Memorializes Them,” Washington Post, 25 May 2018.

"Why the Battle for Hamburger Hill Was So Controversial," History.com, 18 May 2018

Vietnam: Those Who Served,” Gatehouse Media for USA Today, 31 March 2018

A Photo That Changed the Course of the Vietnam War,” New York Times, 1 February 2018

Dissertations Supervised

John Lemza, Tracing American Exceptionalism During the Cold War: American Military Communities in West Germany, 1946-1990 (2014)

Kirklin Bateman, Project 100,000: New Standards Men and the U.S. Military in Vietnam (2014)